Recently I told someone I thought they could benefit from therapy, because they were having a series of issues in their life. I was surprised when I heard the response ‘But I don’t have a mental illness.’ It shouldn’t surprise me, as a big part of my life’s work is rebranding depression and the associated stigma, but still for some reason the comment left me with my jaw to the floor and raised the question: Do people really think you have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to benefit from therapy?
I was pondering what to say back when I read an excerpt from “A Practical Guide to Meditation and Prayer” by J. Douglas Bottorff. It is literally the most brilliant advice I have read in quite some time that helps articulate why anyone can benefit from therapy. Do me a favor; read it a few times, and just sit with it for a bit and let me know how it resonates.
“I know a man whose life is in constant turmoil and yet he displays an optimistic attitude that it is all good. There is nothing good about the turmoil he is going through, however, unless he begins to see in himself the cause for the turmoil. As he sees this and changes the patterns in his consciousness that produce the problems, he will begin to derive the good from the tumultuous conditions and will be lifted into a level where these conditions do not exist.”
We pay an accountant to manage our finances, an attorney to fight our legal battles, and yet people say “do not go to a counselor – because they don’t know anything.” But I don’t have to be rich or broke to get an accountant, a good or bad person to get an attorney, so I don’t know why we think we need to be sick or healthy to get some insight into our brain. There is a ton we don’t know about the brain, so the counselor may not know a lot more than you, but I bet they know more.
In answer to my questions: If things aren’t working, and you want them to work, I say find a great therapist and work though it!
Find someone who is trained, who has more education than you do on the brain. Shop around until you match with someone. Take a listening class and learn how to understand insights from other people.
The bottom line is you don’t have to ‘NEED’ therapy to benefit from therapy. Don’t call them your therapist – call them your top-secret strategic brain technician. It is so easy to say ‘It was the other person’s fault.’ My guess is you will find, in any situation, that it is a bit of both. The key is to stop worrying about who to blame and start really digging in to what you want your life to be.
There is no better feeling than to be 100% authentic with someone, admitting your worst secrets and mistakes without judgment, and being unconditionally loved anyway. Talking through those mistakes to understand your part in what brought you to that point (even if it is the other person’s fault – you someone got there). And then making changes so you have a lower likelihood in the future of repeating them.
If you want to find a therapist in your area, check www.goodtherapy.org. Good luck!
Last reviewed: 5 May 2011